The Black Orchid (A Nero Wolfe Group) Message Board
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Thus: How long have you read Stout? What books are your favorites? How do you feel about the characters (admiring antagonism for Wolfe - surely not!)? Who are your favorite minor players? (Fans of Saul, unite!)
Are the plots merely adequate - or great? What's the secret of the books' appeal? And so on and so forth... ad infinitum.
Lastly: do you own any 'extra' books - The Nero Wolfe Cookbook, Nero Wolfe of Thirty-Fifth Street, a biography of Rex Stout? I'd love to hear your opinions.
Grab a glass of milk, a bottle of beer, or ask Fritz to make you tea; settle in, and be welcome. Whether you're in for dancing at the Flamingo, or being grllled by Wolfe - this could take hours...
I have all but one of his Nero Wolfe books, and several of the others - which I think are inferior. The group's library should be ok for a start. :)
Thank you for the invitation, and for creating this group!
What a surprise, all of our "shared books" are Wolfe books! I wonder if there's a way to find out what books we share that aren't by Rex Stout. It might be a good source of reading ideas. Not that I have any shortage of those ;-)
I've been reading Nero Wolfe for most of my life. My parents gave me Gambit, for my birthday when I was about ten. I played a lot of chess when I was young, and they were trying to encourage me to read more. It worked!
I've since managed read all of the Nero Wolfe books. I think that between my parents' library and my own, we also have copies of all of them.
Hmmm. Lots of food for conversation in your introductory message, but work calls...
P.S. Count me in the Saul Panzer fanclub too!
Wolfe fan here too, but I do have a soft spot for Tecumseh Fox. Can't remember when I read my first Stout, I must have been something like eleven or twelve at the time. Mum was the book-pusher here too.
And while Saul is great, my favourite secondary character has to be Lily Rowan.
And at least one of my Stouts is in my native Finnish, so the group library just became a little bit more exotic ;-)
Sari, the other half of casa_tali
Hey, Wombat, that's a coincidence. "Gambit" was the first one I read too; I think it was the dictionary-burning that hooked me. (I've never used "infer" when I meant "imply" again.)
I can't tell you how long I've been reading Stout - a long time, anyway. The basis of my collection came from my parents but I've added to it. I don't think it's anywhere near complete, though - I add as the opportunity arises.
He is my favourite of the classic American mystery writers. I also like the Lockridges, but never really liked Queen or Gardner above lukewarm.
I can't pick a favourite - it's been a while since I went on a Wolfe binge. They're always re-readable though because the characters are great, the writing is sharp, and the plots always work for me.
I don't have any of the adjunct books but I do have one non-Wolfe ripping yarn type thing - Under the Andes.
Have you read the Lord Darcy stories by Randall Garrett? Wolfe and Archie feature in Too Many Magicians, although under pseudonyms. Totally recognizable though - even the red leather chair is there :).
I owned the final book A Family Affair in hardback, but it got lost somewhere, so I was delighted to find the Bantam paperback copy at a used bookstore a couple of weeks ago.
I own The Nero Wolfe Cookbook, the biography by John J. McAleer, and the "Nero Wolfe of 35th Street" book by Baring Gould.
There's a fansite here (full disclosure: I helped with the Wolfe readiing list):
with full bibliography, a couple of articles about the A&E TV series, and other miscellany.
In a couple of hours I will be dragging feet to my own appointment in the underworld .... the dentist. I expect to be late. There is no hope for redemption, no soothing music in this hell, just the shrill sound of torture. I have been considering the book to accompany me in the waiting room - Dentists' dictionaries do not appear to have definitions for 'Appointment'. I have read your invitation as a message from the 'Fates'; so Nero Wolfe it is. The question is which one?
I have a picture in my minds eye .... and the dentist looks exactly like Arnold Zeck. For that Eurydice, I do not thank you.
Citizen of the Underworld, Fate's handmaiden...
Linkmeister: Glad you've joined. I remember sharing a zillion books with you, when LT was new and I'd catalogued mainly mysteries. :) I've always wondered if Saul contained elements of self-portrait. (I can elaborate on why, if that's any help.) Does the biography shed light on the issue?
Tardis: I'm not interested by Erle Stanley Gardner, either, though I keep thinking I will give Ellery Queen a better try. I do however like a number of books by John Dickson Carr, though it's easy to forget he's actually American.
In contrast to the lukewarm contemporaries, Stout's writing always pleases me; sharp and funny; wonderfully erudite, orotund yet astringent when we come to Wolfe (would I be correct in saying, Johnsonian?). Then, too, it's larded with diversionary interests, more serious opinions or concerns (literary or political), and, frequently, great maneuvers, details, and tricks - good in themselves, or in keeping re-reading pleasurable. I think the reliable setting of West Thirty-Fifth Street and its immutable routines is perpetually welcoming, just as the Wolfe-Archie relationship gives a depth and catalyst for plot elements we don't see in his other books (or at least the handful I have).
Tecumseh Fox seems most successful to me at The Zoo: out of context and outside real relationships, his character feels weaker and less defined. Am I missing a Tecumseh mystery that would wow me, Sari?
Incidentally, the Dol Bonner mystery The Hand in the Glove has always seemed to me the most successful of his other mysteries, though a secondary character in the Wolfe series. The Sound of Murder runs it a close second, in my memory.
Death of a Doxy was my first Wolfe, but the dictionary-burning of Gambit is a quintessential moment, and delighted me. Especially Wolfe's exchange about it with Archie.
This feels gargantuan, so I'll leave the rest for another posting...
First, find the biography. It's here somewhere.
Double-stacked books are a nuisance, but I can't seem to persuade the other occupants that we're not using the living room anyway, so why not put nice lovely library shelves down there?
I haven't read more than a paragraph teaser by Goldsborough. Hasty judgment? Maybe. But that was enough for me.
Too Many Magicians actually sounds fun, though.
I look forward to taking another look at the fan site tomorrow, Linkmeister. Getting his reading list together was a stroke of brilliance - one of the things I'd sometimes wished I had to hand. Montaigne gets high honor in Wolfe's bedroom, and in other Rex Stout stories; which oddly enough is what convinced me to read the volume of essays I had. Thanks for looking into the biographical issue...
Odd as some of the recipes seem now, I love The Nero Wolfe Cookbook, and have enjoyed what I've used. Corn fritters rule - but I've yet to make a hedgehog omelette.
Cogitno: I hope you don't mind being teased by spirits of the underworld (pun intended)? Best wishes with the appointment.
How do you all feel about the A&E series? (Or am I asking too many questions? :) )
I've heard that Wolfe and Archie also appear in a James Bond short story by Ian Fleming, but I've never seen it. Does anyone have the reference?
Does anyone remember the older TV Series, that was on in the late 70s or early 80s? That one I watched religiously. Since I was young and impressionable, it had a strong impact on my mental images of the characters---particularly Inspector Cramer, for some odd reason.
IMDB's info site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0283205/
Timothy Hutton played Archie and directed most of them. Hutton said at the time that he was a true Wolfe fan, and it showed.
Maury Chaykin was pretty darned good as Wolfe; Bill Smitrovich played Cramer (better in some episodes than others). It was like repertory; a lot of the same actors turned up playing different characters in different stories.
It started off with a bang, too: the first episode was "The Doorbell Rang," followed by "Champagne for One" and "Prisoners Base."
It's worth buying/renting.
I was VERY impressed with the level of fidelity to the texts, not only in the use of quotes, dialogue, and plot; but even in details of decor, etc. And the whole thing was very stylish - funny, well-directed, inventive.
Timothy Hutton makes a marvelous Archie (dead on). Maury Chaykin's very good (only disappointing me at moments); Bill Smitrovich impressive as Cramer. Conrad Dunn did a marvellous job, bringing Saul Panzer convincingly to life. Fred was excellent... And the often silent, but highly expressive Fritz was perfect! Most of the 'one-time' characters were played with an edge of campiness, though in part this highlighted the re-use of the actors. More successful sometimes than others, in sum I thought it was great. :)
We own both seasons. My favorite adaptations are of Champagne for One, Over My Dead Body, and the linked scenes of the novellas Eeney Meeny Murder Moe and Disguise for Murder. (No touchstones here, as they won't work.) These are in the first season. But the second-season Death of a Doxy was great. Among other things, I'd never been able to visualize or hear Julie Jacquette quite as I thought Stout meant her - but the ubiquitous Kari Matchett caught it... Mod, funny, sharp and endearing.
I don't know NY at all, but I've always wondered what venue Stout was trying to reference when he had Archie dancing there with Lily.
24laytonwoman3rd First Message
I have a priceless (to me) photocopy of an article from the Journal of Modern Literature (March 1983), entitled For the Record; Rex Stout and William Faulkner's Nobel Prize Speech. The article was written by one of my college English professors (several years after I had taken courses from him). Now if you look at my LT catalog, you will see that I am a devotee of William Faulkner so this article is just my cup of tea. Professor Rife notes that the phrase "the last ding-dong of doom" appearing in Faulkner's Nobel acceptance speech may have been "borrowed" from Stout, who used it in The League of Frightened Men in 1935, where Wolfe says "this vote is not the last dingdong of doom." Wolfe further makes reference to the destiny of the human race, which is also the famous topic of Faulkner's speech.
This is my ultimate weapon in any argument that begins with disparaging remarks about the quality and worth of mystery novels!
Anyway, I first got into Wolfe through him, and he got into it through his parents. Death of a Doxy was my first Wolfe too, and it's still one of my favorites. Hmm, other favorites include Too Many Cooks and Plot it Yourself, I think, though really I like too many to list.
Oh, and linkmeister, we'd already found that website while surfing around looking for info on the books Wolfe reads. I was thrilled to see someone had put together a list, it was very informative.
And on the A&E series: I've only seen a brief part of one episode, the Death of a Doxy one, but I completely agree that Julie Jacquette was just so much fun, and Archie was great, that I've been trying to convince Lloyd ever since that we should watch it and it won't be disappointing. Now I have you all to back me up!
My roomie just put me onto the Nero Wolfe books a month ago and they have pretty much taken over my life ever since... The dishes haven't been done in at least a week and if the dog didn't occasionally beg to be taken out I would be in danger of taking on Wolfe-like proportions. :)
I had a moment of crisis earlier today when I realized that after this book, and the next book, I only have about fifteen books left. Horrible thought, that.
I am crazy about Saul Panzer.
Laytonwoman3rd: that's wonderful. To think Faulkner borrowed from Stout pleases me no end.
Speaking of doom and the human race, has anyone else read Stout's The President Vanishes?
Nperrin: I will definitely back you up on that!
Jest: Any friend of Saul's is a friend of mine. :) It was an awful feeling, drawing near and knowing that soon I'd never sit down with a Nero Wolfe mystery that was new to me again. For me, thankfully, the reading was spaced out over two years or so, of necessity. I can't imagine going through a month of intense Wolfe readership and facing the withdrawal! ;)
Never the less, Fred Durkin has a special place for me in the Nero Wolfe world. Stout was at his best when he drew us characters that resonate in real life. And he was at his very best with "simple" characters. He showed us these considerable talents in the very first Nero Wolfe, Fer-de-Lance: his treatment of the young Golf Caddies for example. Fer-de-Lance has been criticized as a trifle florid. Maybe, yet it remains one of my favourites. When he created Anna Fiore, I was hooked as a life long fan. I don't know whether a character like Anna Fiore can exist in today's world, but I believe that she was real in the 1930's. I was moved by her circumstances and touched by her (misplaced) loyalty. I didn't expect it and was still surprised when I re-read it!
Eurydice: I have never been able to a get my hands on a copy of The Presidents Men. I did manage a copy of the film (directed by William Wellman, 1934). It is a little confusing, which is unusual for the normally reliable Wellman. Two stars at best. Stout didn't write the dialogue. It is a little sad that a 1934 film is more easily attainable than abook of similar vintage, the Southern Hemisphere notwithstanding.
Did I say that I was a Saul fan!
However, I do find Fred endearing. Among other things, his ability to know his own limits, keep within them, and yet know that what he did well was valuable - without resentment or being intimidated by others' gifts - is something I respect and appreciate. He's very dear - from his fidelity, right down to the vinegar on his oysters, or his embarrassments in Too Many Women.
Fritz inspires similarly fond feelings. Perhaps stronger. Stout was very good with fidelity - as much in the series characters as, somewhat differently, in Anna Fiore.
My copy of The President Vanishes was found by chance, for a dollar or so, in a used bookstore, and snapped up before it could vanish likewise. I'll mull over some comments and give them to you when I'm more awake...
When our comments on secondary comments have run the gamut (not that they will ever run dry), we may eventually go on to some discussion of Wolfe and Archie, themselves. :)
Meanwhile: for members of the Saul Panzer fan club, why is Saul such a favorite - or what stands out to you about him? Perhaps we'll get nothing but a gushing of pro-Saul feeling, but it's also possible our reasons and recollections differ, and pick up on somewhat different parts of Stout's creation. Also, is there anybody whose favorite 'minor' character could be Horstmann? A fellow orchid lover who feels disadvantaged, overlooked? Someone who tends their own plants with more tenderness than Wolfe?? Please - hypothesize with me. ;)
"Look, Theodore," I said, "I don't give a good goddam what you like or don't like. Mr. Wolfe has always pampered you because you're the best orchid nurse alive. This is as good a time as any to tell you that you remind me of sour milk."
I always liked Vukcic. Anyone who could say (from the same book), "I am stealing it from my old friend Nero to spend on beautiful women or olive oil" has my approval. ;)
I have been reading Nero Wolfe since I was a tot. My first was The League of Frightened Men, but since my parents owned most of the series, it wasn't long before I had worked my way through them all. My favorite is still Some Buried Caesar, in part for the introduction of Lily Rowan, but mostly because it was the first one I solved before Mr. Wolfe!
As a young reader, I had a terrible crush on Saul Panzer - Archie was a little flighty for me. (And I recently found a fansite that has been posting fanfiction - of the slash variety - about Saul and Archie. Maybe there was a little more than professional rivalry there...?)
I have to say that I hated the A&E series; I found Wolfe to be terribly portayed. The first one I watched he was shrieking at someone in his office, something I simply couldn't imagine the "real" Mr. Wolfe ever doing.
I have the Nero Wolfe Cookbook, which is great reading even if I don't think it would make for great cooking. I'm also working on getting the books on audio as they come out - they make great listening during my long commute.
Up until recently I thought pretty much everyone had a soft spot for him. However, the other day, I had a customer in ye olde bookshoppe who argued that Saul is a boring non-character because he is too perfect... I got a bit frosty after he said that and told him that we didn't have any Nero Wolfe books left which was a complete lie but I don't apologize. He shouldn't have talked about Saul that way.
Saul *is* Special.
Aside from Fred and Fritz, Lily Rowan is a favourite with me. I pretty much like all the characters that Archie likes.
Choose a simple recipe, like lamb braised in white wine, or the corn fritters, and the cookbook is excellent. I have hopes of some of the breakfast dishes, or the walnut pudding, or something, in coming months.
As for Saul - I refuse to let anyone denigrate him as 'too' perfect. What a milk-and-water term. Not even under torture will I say so, jest, but - your customer got what was coming to them.
Did anyone else find Timothy Hutton's dress sense a bit garish in the A&E series. Or am I letting my 1980's sensibilities get in the way? (No, I never moved on)
Not terrified, if you like that sort of thing. (And I admit that it's one of my guilty pleasures.) Send me your email and I'll send you a link. email@example.com.
I admit that I didn't watch much of the series after the first shouting scene - it was a dealbreaker for me. Just a hurdle I couldn't get over.
As for the audiobooks, I don't mind Michael Prichard. I have heard some really terrible readers (I had to stop listening to the Robert B. Parker audio series when they had Burt Reynolds reading ), but it's enuogh to have the series on audio.
I have made some of the dishes, but they are mostly the sort of recipe I like to read, rather than cook. The food has always been one of my favorite parts of the books.
(Bypassing squirrel stew, and the like....)
The recording lasts 28 minutes, of which Mr. Stout is on air for about 6 or 7 minutes. I originally expected to hear Nero Wolfe and was pleasantly surprised when I heard some of Archie as well!
If anyone is interested, I will find an Internet source or, failing that, will make it available by some other means.
The reference to the recording is a little hard to find. It is about two-thirds the way down this very long page. Search for the phrase "entire recording". It is click to play or (in my browser), a right click to "save link as".
The web site is a fine resource. The .sk domain is Slovakian. Which is a nice touch - they brew wonderful beer.
LisaLynne, I can sympathize with your desire, but...;)
Most of my books are paperbacks from the 70's and 80's. Some go back as far as the 50's. And of course I have some newer ones. I'm particularly fond of the 60's editions covers of Edgar Rice Burroughs's science (?) fiction books. I found most of them using Google.
This has nothing to do with Rex Stout!
I want to stress that I did not include weight!
LisaLnne, I consider your obsession to be quite reasonable.
57moretoastplease First Message
I loved the series because it was very evocative of the lifestyle. How lush Wolfe's world was, and what an entire world he had going on in how townhouse. I thought that the design on the series (including the clothing, sure) was just lovely. And I loved the ensemble thing.
It's hard to make yourself unpopular with me by liking one of Stout's characters, can you tell? ;)
I can't really PREFER Fritz to some of the others; but then in Stout, books as well as film, ensemble is one of the strengths. The characters are great, but especially as they interact. Or do any of you disagree? Is Stout better at isolated characters than I think?
Thinking of it again, he also had a genius for endearing men. But I lay the proposition before you all.
moretoastplease: I thought the Fritz in the A&E series and the Fritz in the books were almost different characters. The latter shy and almost self-effacing (except in the kitchen); the former, with some wit, albeit non-verbally. I have no preference for either, and admire them both, though it took some time to forget the beard.
Eurydice: I happily admit to admiration for Stout's minor characters. True, some are almost caricatures, and yet I have never (almost never) not heard their distinctive voices in the office denouement scenes.
Let me point out a few: Anna Fiore (Fer-de-Lance) is memorable and sad; Arnold Zeck (Best of Families) remains one of the best renditions of a modern master criminal in literature; the morally deformed Paul Chapin from The League of Frightened; the competing chefs in Too Many Cooks; the ultimately chilling Janet Nichols in 'Cordially Invited to Meet Death' (Black Orchids). I am an old fashioned FAN of Nero Wolfe, and acknowledge that it may result in some uncritical views. But I can't help it.
The plots however ......
Agreed on minor characters, including Zeck; he's a marvelous and more-than-usually believable version. Paul Chapin leaving the office at the end of The League of Frightened Men is hard to forget; far more serious and disturbing, more human, than many of Stout's characters or denouments.
And, ah yes, the plots.... The best of men has a weakness.
I must admit that this sort of minutae doesn't particularly excite me, but other may find it so. Came across it during my (apparently forloon) search for a picture of the Nero Wolfe (or Archie Goodwin) orchid.
I'm terrible with floorplans, but it's interesting. Thanks for sending it on, cogitno. Tastes do indeed differ. - Thankfully, if inexplicably. ;)
Speaking of remembering the plots, and of Paul Chapin I'm currently re-reading The League of Frightened Men. It's been so long since the last time I read it that I actually don't remember who the murderer is! But I remember both Paul and Dora Chapin vividly.
It turns out that Thayer Hall at Harvard, where Paul Chapin had his accident, is a real place. I'm going to make a point of taking a look the next time I'm in the neighborhood. There are a number of good bookstores in the area, so it probably won't be long...
Exactly. I don't remember the murderer, but I cannot forget the Chapins; and this is something of a plus.
Though there are plenty of books where I remember the plot well, as we all do, I am more likely to remember some piece that draws me or doesn't interfere; a place, a character, the setting in this or that industry, a single moment (or more) vividly alive. Stout didn't create gnawing suspense, or perfect puzzle-like plots that end with a bang, like Agatha Christie (to name one 'illustrious' contemporary); but the majority of her characters, detectives excepted, are thin, largely anonymous, and unalluringly cold; types rather than even vivid caricatures. The extreme distrust and commonly mercenary motives eventually pall. Once the puzzle is gone, one may appreciate plot elements, but there's far less to re-read for.*
However, while the overall plot construction is not his strong point, there are aspects of them I love. Namely, Nero Wolfe's tricks. - His escapades, ploys, and ingenuity. (As seen in numerous books: The Doorbell Rang, The Mother Hunt, and In the Best Families just three that spring to my muddled mind.) They aren't always present; but there are features I love in the way Stout envisions the books, and Wolfe's work, even if they coexist with weaknesses - even within the same books.
(Incidentally, there are some similarities between the aforementioned Christie's The Big Four and Stout's In the Best Families. However improbable the latter novel, it is vastly better than The Big Four. Though I enjoyed its twenties vintage at one time, too. :) )
* To be fair, I did not say nothing. But I haven't felt drawn to doing so in quite a long time.
(I just re-read all three of the Zeck books; I ain't that good!)
I am leaving this morning, and hope to keep in touch with you all a little, but may not be around for more than a week. However, I will return, most gladly. Though sorry to lose Linkmeister's orchids, I am switching to another black orchid variety... so no one grows bored.
Quite right - I may love the others rather more than you do, euroborous, but otherwise, you've put it extremely well and I agree. Without that, there would be no books worth our ardor. :) His others (IMHO) simply do not make it. I enjoy them as an auxiliary, but they would never transform me into a fan.
Here's a question: does anybody know if a matched set of the NW books have ever been published in hardcover? It's a dream of mine to find such in some little hole-in-the-wall used bookstore...
Glad to have yet another recommendation on Nero Wolfe of West Thirty-Fifth Street; thanks!
I've been off-line (and on vacation) myself. I spent the past week at my parent's beach house, which also happens to be where most of their Rex Stout books are.
Oroborous: I'm not sure what you mean by a "matched set" of hardcovers. My parents have a lot of the Viking hardcovers that were published in the 50's and 60's. The dust covers have long been lost, and the "naked" hardcovers have a similar appearance in terms of size, binding and printing (on the spines). But they aren't identical.
While I was away I re-read Too many cooks and Some buried Caesar. In both books Nero Wolfe is working someplace outside of his home. It seems that despite his distaste for leaving home, he wound up doing so in a lot of the early novels. In addition to the above, he also makes business-related forays out of his house in The league of frightened men and (I think) The red box. That's four of the first six novels!
I'm afraid I read no Wolfe while I was gone - though I did get a book closer to finishing both Raymond Chandler and Ross MacDonald's canons.
One wonders if, perhaps, Stout was unsure about pulling off a complete book with a 'primary' detective who truly wouldn't leave his house, in those early years? In the former books, at least, he was somewhere else on another pretext, before the case appeared... but my favorites are the books where he actually leaves to hide out - as in The Mother Hunt and In the Best Families - or of course the actual journey of The Black Mountain.
Isn't there also a book where Wolfe leaves home and hides out at Saul Panzer's? I always liked that scene.
All in all, it seems there are a lot of stories where Wolfe leaves home for one reason or another. It's probably not 2 out of 3 across the entire canon, but there are a lot.
It seems that part of Wolfe's character are his strong likes (orchids, good cooking, beer, reading) and his strong dislikes (leaving home, women, et al.) One of the best ways for Stout to convey how much he hates to leave home is to force him to do so. Then we get to see his expression in the back seat of the sedan, his disappearing acts to get back home, his manouvering to find a comfortable chair, and so on.
I have to think that in the early books, Stout was feeling his way toward exactly how the series and the characters would work. I've always been amazed at how quickly the characters and their routines are set in place. It's pretty much all there by the second book, The League of Frightened Men.
But it would make sense if there were other little things that Stout took longer to work out. Wolfe also gets shot twice in the first few books. I don't know if it happens again after that (maybe in The Black Mountain?) Despite the number of times Archie takes a gun with him on various errands, there is remarkably little gunplay in the books.
Isn't there also a book where Wolfe leaves home and hides out at Saul Panzer's? I always liked that scene.
So did I! But I'm just up from a nap, and I can't recall where in the books it lies. (Unless, of course, they stop there briefly in The Mother Hunt, as well...?)
I can recall two instances:
1) The novella "Next Witness" from Three Witnesses (1956). Wolfe leaves court before being called to testify in a Telephone scam case. He takes refuge in Saul's apartment and is served a smorgasbord feast, including "three kinds of cheeses". Archie gave the impression that Saul was trying to hard. I think he described Saul as prancing.
2) The novella "Fourth of July Picnic" from And Four to Go (1958). Wolfe hiding from the authorities after a murder is committed at a "Picnic" for the Restaurant Workers Union. Wolfe reluctantly consented to give a speech to honour his undertaking to Marko Vukic's estate. Has a good description of Saul's apartment.
..Edit was a missing bracket.
Eurydice & etrainer, I'll add Ross MacDonald to my reading list. I might actually get around to reading him, too. Since my parents have a number of his books, this means I won't have to pack reading material the next time I visit them!
Wolfe's brownstone? I don't know. It would be an amusing project to check out the going prices on 35th Street. ;)
I suspect Archie gives us useful guessing figures, as he often mentions how much the whole shebang takes to run. Extrapolate from them, and.... who knows?
I don't have Three Witnesses or And Four to Go here. But according to Nero Wolfe of West Thirty-Fifth Street (by William S. Baring-Gould), Saul lives, "by himself on the top floor---living room, bedroom, kitchenette, and bath---of a remodeled house."
It's hard to say what a place like that would rent for. According to a friend, a recently rennovated two bedroom apartment in the building where I grew up is now going for about $5K/month.
Somehow I imagine Saul owning his own place. If you look up the passage, Eurydice, let us know!
I also greatly enjoy both MacDonalds and recommend them highly to all; especially the Travis McGee mysteries of John D.
I re-read the McGee books a couple of years ago and found them a little condescending. But still highly enjoyable. John D. Macdonald books are better plotted the Rex Stout's, but don't have the warmth and charm, nor the wonderfull phrasing.
The deletion below was a duplicate post.
I remember once driving between Tucson and Phoenix on I-10 in the dead of night, exhausted after packing my belongings for a summer away from school. I pulled over to the shoulder under an overpass (flyover?) and started re-reading Champagne For One to wake myself up.
I arrived in Phoenix safe and sound, so it must have worked.
The quote from Stout about Bond getting the girl was what I remembered. I'm not sure I agree with Stout -- I think some women would prefer Archie.
Wolfe's cars were often referred to as "Town Cars". Does a Town Car have any features that distinguish it from a Sedan, or is it simply prestige sedan?
On another note: BookMooch's user Amber is surrendering a handful of Rex Stout books to trade, including some harder-to-find titles like Plot it Yourself and Red Threads, and the early mysteries The League of Frightened Men, The Rubber Band, and The Red Box, which latter trio took me forever to find and assemble. And not only that, cost a bit more, too. If you're missing any of them, don't hesitate to pick them up. From my limited experience, BookMooch is really nice - and the trade ratio is great.
I'm no car expert, but I believe that "Heron" is a fictitious brand. A quick on-line search shows that the only listings for "Heron" sedans are models where the manufacturer has used the term to describe the color (i.e., white).
For me, the term "town car" has always referred to specific make---a Lincoln Town Car. Wikipedia's Town Car page says that the name refers to "a classic style of limousine, popular in the 1920s, which had an open chauffeur's compartment up front."
Old term for a formal vehicle with an open driver's seat and an enclosed passenger compartment. Similar to a SEDENCA DE VILLE.
The same as the Wikipedia definition. While I could see Wolfe as a Town Car passenger - he did describe himself as magisterial - I can't see Archie as the chauffeur. Fred would certainly chauffeur, Saul might ;), but Archie wouldn't!
I believe that my memory of Packard's was faulty; my research has not thrown any up in the Wolfe corpus. It has thrown up one Cadillac: Archie refers to "his" Cadillac convertible in the short novel "Man Alive" from Three Doors to Death (1947). I suspect that the on-line review site I referred to was wrong: the Cadillac pre-dates the Heron, and I have only found that single reference to it.
It had also been my impression that the Heron was just about always Wolfe's car. I cannot however, find any reference to it prior to the 1958 novel Champagne for One, where Archie describes it as Grey, and notes that his initial preference was for a smaller car. He also notes that a Rolls Royce had been considered, but given Wolfe's requirement that cars be changed each year, the Rolls would have been a waste. Except for that one Cadillac reference, I have found no specific make / model references prior to 1958; Wolfe's vehicles are referred to simply as either Sedans or Roadsters. After 1957, the Heron is often mentioned, right up to the '70's.
I should point out that my research is sketchy at best: simple (book) page browsing while engaged in interminable conference calls.
I noticed a Rolls Royce was used in the TV series.
Seriously, I suspect that Stout really didn't want to use names which might imply an endorsement (other than Archie's ties -- I seem to remember him going out to buy a Sulka!).
It should have, as I devoured Ian Fleming's Bond stories as a teenager, in which just about every consumable, service or asset was branded. Another item to add that to the the repertory of arguments against Fleming and Stout co-authoring a Bond / Wolfe novel.
At the best mystery bookstore here (aside from a purveyor of first editions which I am not fool enough to frequent), I saw a beautiful hardcover of Nero Wolfe of West Thirty-Fifth Street a week or so ago, and almost bought it. I loved the dust jacket: beautiful gun-and-orchid in black and white. BUT - I'd have had to trade the rest of what was in my hands for the thing, and I wasn't sure I wanted to. Probably wrong, there. ;) Now it's haunting me...
Haunted! I'm haunted by the absence of even a "worst mystery bookstore" in my town.
What is an appropriate age to introduce Nero Wolfe to younger readers. I have a number of Nieces and Nephews who may be candidates, but have so far be reluctant, lest I spoil their appetites by a premature introduction? Any thoughts would be welcome.
I have been reading Stout for about twenty years. My husband's aunt, a mystery lover, introduced me to Stout and Sayers. She "willed" me the Triple Zeck hardcover. It is still my favorite, for sentimental reasons and I enjoy the trilogy. Wolfe skinny!
Wolfe reminds me of a crusty, super-intelligent, warm-hearted uncle of mine. He would rather die than allow anyone to see his tenderness, and he was quite the gourmand. Also, being an attorney, he loved to hear himself talk.
Archie is a dream. He is the reason I have read the canon three times at least. He's just a good friend to visit, which answers the appeal question I think. I do love Saul, and I married someone very like him, only he is a sleuth of arcane information such as five-vowel words, instead of criminals. I love Fred's faithfulness. Orrie is my least favorite, but wasn't it planned that way? Given time, he would mature. I also see the glass half full. Fritz has got to be the most patient chef ever on this earth. As for plots, I don't read mysteries for plots...I just like to enjoy the ride and let the sleuths solve the puzzle. I do not even enjoy it if I can figure it out, which I seem to be doing more often these days.
I own The Nero Wolfe Cookbook and several hardbacks with titles having to do with poker. I also rescue Wolfe books from our library sale, they seem to be purging. My husband, who is compulsive in gift giving (did I say he was a great guy?), bought me all the Wolfe stories in paperback over the last 15 years, as well as several of Stout's other works. I did not enjoy the odd novels much, except the stories with Cramer as the detective and Theodolina? Sorry, it's been a long time since I've looked at them so I don't remember the titles, if you want to know I will look them up for you. Still, not like the Wolfe stories. My delima. Do I get rid of the paperbacks as I aquire the hardbacks? Most of the paperbacks have interesting tidbits of info in the introductions and look cool together on the shelf. Easier to pack if I move. But can I bring myself to get rid of the hardbacks? They hold up better over the years. Sigh. I guess I can put the decision off until there is no more room in my house for books. OK, now I'm going to read the rest of these messages.
I love Archie's voice. It's one of the great appeals of the series. And now that I am working on a mystery, myself, I appreciate it all the more - and hope indeed no one is reading for the plot!
Married to a Saul, Mrs. Lee? You are fortunate, indeed!
Archie, I agree, looks incredibly concerned for women compared with Bond. As I may have said: I always wished I could date Archie a little, and marry Saul. It has not worked, yet. ;) Ah, well. We hope there is still time.
It's been just long enough I am beginning to think about making my way through the canon, again. I may go chronologically, this time, as despite other re-readings, it's the first time I've actually owned all the books. Meanwhile, I've been reading and collecting John Dickson Carr.
More soon. And welcome!
It put the Cramer/Wolfe relationship into a new light for me.
Were they the ones with Sydney Greenstreet? Some episodes I have also star Gerald Mohr as Archie. I didn't like him as Archie Goodwin, but he was a marvelous (you guessed it) Philip Marlowe! If you haven't heard his 'Adventures of...', try to find it. It's one of the two or three best radio series I've ever heard.
The first book is, as usual, a good if not perfectly representative place to begin. Fer-de-Lance. Last I knew, it was stlll in print and most large bookstores stock it. Some Buried Caesar and Over My Dead Body are, in chronological order, the next which I know to be in print. All three are from the 1930s. Some Buried Caesar isn't a favorite of mine, but does introduce recurring minor character Lily Rowan, which is not to be missed.
The other option is to start with some of the most famous books of the '50s and '60s. If you'd rather do that, we could draw up a list in no time. :)
Hope that helps.
What?!? Who you callin' minor????
If it weren't for that book I'd have never ever read the word "Escamillo" in print. Archie's description of her as "a gazelle in a herd of Guernseys" is lovely. I've been looking all my life for a woman to say that to. ;)
That was one of the short stories. Tammy something-or-other was a T-woman, and counterfeiting was the crime.
She's a very IMPORTANT minor character. ;)
Or, to try again: 'Meeting Lily Rowan, one of the recurring, secondary characters with whom Stout excelled, is not to be missed. - And that though Some Buried Caesar is, otherwise, not one of my favorite books.'
I wish I was a gazelle and not one of the Guernseys. Darn it.
As for Some Buried Caesar, I love the comparison of the chicken and dumplings in the different church women's tents. Was it Methodist and Baptist? I can't remember who won, but it inspired me to work at it until I could make marvelous chicken and dumplings myself. Light fluffy dumplings, rich gravy and tender chicken...think I need to go cook now.
And you're perfectly right about the chicken and dumplings. Lovely scenes and most tempting. Don't spare any chicken-and-dumpling making advice you may have for us.
I leave the link question for a couple of the members who have proved themselves so good with them.
I thought I'd posted this link before, but Firefox isn't finding the phrase on this page.
This website has the books listed in publication order, but you've got to page down to get past the lists you see first (those are alpha). Once you see "Fer de Lance" in bold, centered, you've found the chronological list.
Eurydice, if you'd called Lucy Valdon a minor character I wouldn't have objected, but Lily? Lily once necked with Nero Wolfe! How could she be minor? ;)
Eurydice, I would be happy to share the chicken and dumpling recipe with you. Shall I post it here, or to your profile?
That point about Cramer's tactics is the most interesting thing I've ever heard about Red Threads. Now I'm feeling inspired to actually read it.
Can you write a novella?
tsjafo: Welcome. Nero Wolfe set in fairyland? My goodness. The only problem seems to be the early volumes' relative scarcity or expense. Where would you recommend starting, or, what's best?
Your local library might carry some Glen Cook but you'd probably be better off hitting the used paperback stores. I don't have a favorite but any of the books should give you an idea about the books. Sweet Silver Blues is the first in the series but any of the books should do.
I like Rex Stout's style and the interplay between Wolfe and Archie. Since Stout has stopped writing them for some reason (*grin*) I enjoy seeing his style carried on by other writers.
I agree with you about the interplay between Wolfe and Archie. That would be hard to duplicate. Having read the one or two novels written after Stout died, I had given up. They just didn't have that spark as far as I was concerned.
MrsLee, I don't really know about Wolfe-style stories outside the Stout canon. There are a variety of odd-couple detective pairs, but I don't know many of them, nor do they necessarily replicate the Wolfeian feel. (I know this is obvious, but... I'm tired enough to say it, anyway. :) ) Maybe someone else can contribute, here?
I finished A Family Affair, I believe the last Wolfe book (Edited to say that I see by own list that there are a couple of more - one from 1977 and three stories from 1985). I frankly did not remember a thing about it, although it's been on my shelf for many years. And it was something of a shocker. Who else read and enjoyed this Wolfe book?
You're right about A Family Affair: a definite shocker, but I can't say I enjoyed it. I'm grateful to note everyone in the group has been carefully discreet about when it's come up. :) The main question is, do you think Stout's central argument in solving the case is fair? Does it hold water, for you? In my case, the answer is 'yes'. I'm presuming, since you suggest you enjoyed it, that your own answer is the same?
It sounds to me like you're at enviable spot: enough of the canon behind you to be really well-informed and get full enjoyment from all the routines and inconsistencies, with a number ahead that's both achievable and not yet frighteningly close to no more NEW Nero Wolfes!. Getting down to five or so, knowing each one brought me closer to never again seeing a brand-new case, caused something like dread. :)
Probably my lack of re-reading in the last year has caused ideas to fizzle. The deterrent has been that I finished the Wolfe canon relatively recently - March of last year - and had read Wolfes rather intensively in the two years before. However, I do love them, and it has been a while. If anyone would care to toss out two or three suggestions, I'll make one my next light read. (I have two other 'light' books in progress, so I may not start till next week.)
Anyone interested in joining us for the Zeck, I think we'll start on the 21st. No one need do so - it'll be fun as it is - but anyone is welcome to.
The episodes can either be listened to directly from your computer, downloaded and played at you leisure or, subscribed to as a feed to you podcatching client.
The shows concentrate on Archie, using rare recordings of episodes that high-light the various "Archie's". Be warned that the podango site can very quickly obliterate any residue of free time left you.
....Edit: can't work out how to make the link live!?
One solution for users of Firefox -- find the Linkification extension and install it. It turns all raw URLs into active links and doesn't take up more than an itsy-bitsy amount of space.
Etrainer: I've heard all the episodes now and have come to the conclusion that the various Nero Wolfe radio series were less about fidelity to the original characters, than the were in high-lighting idiocyncratic behaviour.
I guess Raymond Burr's Perry Mason would be a good fit, but it has been so long since I've seen any of the episodes, it is difficult to be definitive. Perry Mason's tone was commanding and his manner was occassionally curt, characteristics which are both required to render Stout properly. I've always had the impression that the Wolfe's voice would a have a hint of European in it, which Raymond Burr lacks. Sidney Greenstreet has it, but is a little gruff. Orson Welles also (somehow) has it, but is perhaps, a little to cultured. Sidney Greenstreet features very effectively in one of the episodes, despite his inappropriate injection of humour ... and extraordinarily bad puns.
The only perfect voice is the one in the book.
Sidney Greenstreet was Wolfe. I am with you cogitno, the only perfect voice is in the book. Mr. Greenstreet was to gravelly for my taste. The sound quality was not ideal though. I loathed Archie's voice, but I've forgotten the actor's name. He sounded too old and whiny to me. The story was somewhat lame, I thought, but what can you do with only half an hour?
Still, I enjoyed The Adventures of Nero Wolfe, too, for all their disappointments. Though he was too silly, I liked Sydney Greenstreet in the Wolfe role.
My belated hello to all of you! Sorry for the absence. I've been visiting a good friend in a lovely city, and essentially ignoring the internet; besides recovering on coming home. At least there was a row of Wolfe titles ever-visible in the Saul-like living room; and I gained a copy of At Wolfe's Door, a perfectly-chosen gift; besides lingering in the Lincoln Park Conservatory's Orchid Room, and wishing a Theodore were handy, to ask about unlabeled blooms.
Too Many Clients
Three Men Out
Curtains for Three
The Father Hunt
Trying to display image here
Sorry for the poor scan.
I believe he used Fiat motors.
I don't know much about Rex Stout, is it possible he was a Formula 1/Grand Prix racing fan?
I first read Wolfe in around 1968 or so? and I haven't kept good track but I think i can say I've read all of them at least 3 or 4 times and a handful or more of my favorites (League, Best Families, Doorbell Rang among them) at least half a dozen times.
The Goldsboroughs, however.... I really wanted to like them but I only managed to get through one and 2/3. The 'voice' wasn't there and they tried too hard.
I'm slowly replacing my paperback collection with hardcovers which will stand up better to many rereads. :) For awhile I thought I would keep the paperbacks too, because my husband bought them all for me and they have extras in them, a really nice set, but I don't have room for both.
I didn't read (but bought them anyway), the first 6 or 7 Goldsborough books from the 80s and 90s. But I have enjoyed the three newer ones, starting with Archie Meets Nero Wolfe.
I also agree with you on favorites, except I would also add Fer-De-Lance and the other two Arnold Zeck books, as well.
Maybe it's partly the fact that any of the criminals he opposes has an agenda, and no matter how brilliant they are, that agenda leads them to do things which expose them to detection to someone brilliant and dogged enough to follow the clues or devise stratagem to uncover the threads.